Style | The Aesthete

Gelasio Gaetani d’Aragona Lovatelli talks style: Part Two

The winemaker and consultant puts the seal on his directory of tasteful revelations.

December 08 2011
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is my uncle Barone Raimondo Franchetti, who was known by his nickname, Nanuk, and who was the brother of my mother. He was a big hunter – Ernest Hemingway was a good friend of his – and he lived at the Palazzo Franchetti on the Canal Grande. I spent quite a bit of time with him in my teenage years, from about 15 to 18, and he influenced me tremendously. In fact, I still have many of his clothes. He was deaf, and lived a bit outside the world. He just thought aloud, very loudly. He was fascinating and very instinctive.

The best gift I’ve received is, I have to say, from back in the late 1980s – a Harley-Davidson, which my former wife gave me for Christmas. I woke up and found it under the Christmas tree. My kids were there, and they were delighted, so it was also the moment of the gift that was as good as the gift itself. I still have it in the country, and my son, who’s 27, drives it around. www.harley-davidson.com.

The last music I downloaded/bought was… nothing. I am deeply attached to music, but in a very chaotic manner. They’re all on CDs; I don’t even understand how to download music. I don’t have a mania for new music in any case. I like the good Italian singers – Zucchero, for instance. And older American music such as Creedence Clearwater Revival.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a film director. Actually, that’s what I dreamt of being for many years. I became a winemaker by circumstance. I was almost constrained to do it because my father was selling one of our properties in Tuscany, and I didn’t want him to – I was 17 or 18 – because he’d already sold everything we’d grown up with. And this – Tenuta di Argiano – was the last one. I was able to keep a piece of it, and so I remained there, for many years, working on the estate and making wine. But I always wanted to make films. It is what I studied in Rome, and I’ve made a couple of films as a hobby.

The last thing I bought and loved is always a wine, and most recently it was a burgundy, a Romanée-Conti, I think. Right now I’m enamoured of Pinot Noir – I buy lots of burgundies, and I buy a ton at auction. Five years ago I had this passion for bordeaux, but now it’s Pinot Noir. I love to find the old vintages – the best wine auctions are in London, Hong Kong and New York – but I also buy direct from canteens.

The site that inspires me is a view from [the Tuscan island of] Giglio – the Campese part, on the west coast. Or from Giglio Castello, the town near the top of the island. It’s very wild, and the sun sets into the sea – it’s a fantastic blue. The sight is incredible because you could think you are in the Caribbean, but you’re two hours from Rome.

In my fridge you’ll always find… This depends on the house. In Rome, where I live like a bachelor, I have wine in the fridge, and cases all over the place, because I get a lot of gifts. In Montalcino, the fridge is always full but my cook is in charge of what’s in there, so I couldn’t really say. And in London… actually, I don’t manage that fridge, either. But let’s say all three are definitely full of white wine, because they undoubtedly are. The whites of Campania in southern Italy ­– Greco di Tufo, Falanghina and Fiano di Avellino.

An object I would never part with is a chain I wear around my neck, which I absolutely couldn’t be without. It’s a military-style ID tag with my name on it, and my former wife had my children’s names engraved on it when they were born. I have such a fear of losing it that I actually had an identical one made, which I wore for certain periods. But other objects… well, I always try to travel as light as possible.

An indulgence I would never forego? I am fairly sure I could renounce anything material if I decided to be quite disciplined about it. If I said I couldn’t do without a woman I don’t think it would be true, though some would say this is my reputation. But I don’t think I could give up dreaming about doing things with the persons I am most connected with – my children, and two or three very dear others. I think anything else I could say would seem quite banal.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. I was there for almost two months last winter. I was hoping that my then-girlfriend would come down to find me, but she didn’t… so I toured around. It’s one of the last places where there are these incredible spaces – vast and open. Thousands of sheep grazing, and areas such as Rio Gallegos on the sea… just beautiful. In a place so far away – far even from Buenos Aires, which is four hours by plane – you have space to truly reflect. You can’t just go out the door and do some shopping. You’re there. And you’re happy.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Covent Garden in London for the bookshops – there are all sorts, such as the antiquarians and ones [in Cecil Court] that sell antique travel books. I like to be where I feel at home, and I’m not so interested in seeing the latest thing, or going to the farthest island.

My favourite room in my house is my bedroom because it’s also sort of my studio. Whether in Tuscany or in Rome, this is the case, and in both I have my bed and my desk. In Rome I live on the Via Giulia on the top floor, so the view is of the roofs of Ancient Rome. At Argiano in Tuscany, I live in an enormous palazzo and the view is of hills.

If I didn’t live in Rome, the city I would live in is London, which I love. I like New York very much, but being a bit old-fashioned, I prefer London because I feel at ease there. The English are so different from us Italians, but I like this, and there are affinities – I know so many British who live in Italy, and there’s a connection that we don’t have with, say, the Parisians or the Germans.